Australians settling wills in wake of coronavirus pandemic
Published 01 Apr 2020
With the rapidly evolving coronavirus crisis in Australia (and across the globe), many Australians are scrambling to ensure they have a valid will in place. Here are a few basic questions and answers that might help you decide what to do.
What is a will and why do I need one?
A will is a legal document that clearly states who you want to receive your assets when you die. Making a will is the only way to ensure your assets will be distributed according to your wishes. Studies show that at least 45% of Australians do not have a valid will. If you die without a will, your estate will be distributed according to a predetermined formula, and if your only living relatives are more distant than cousins, your estate will pass to the government.
How do I ensure my will is valid?
For a will to be considered legitimate. it needs to comply with certain criteria:
- Unless married, you must be over 18 years old
- It must be in writing whether handwritten, typed or printed
- It must be signed by the person making the will and witnessed by two or more witnesses
- You must have "testamentary capacity," meaning:
- You know the legal effect of a will
- You must be aware of the extent of your assets
- You must be aware of the people who would normally be expected to benefit from your estate
- You must not be prevented by reason of mental illness or mental disease from reaching rational decisions as to who is to benefit from your will
What happens if I die without a will?
If you die without a will, you die intestate – meaning no-one will know who you wanted as your beneficiaries. Your assets will be distributed according to a predetermined formula with certain family members receiving a defined percentage of your assets despite what you may have wished. Dying intestate can result in unnecessary financial hardship and emotional stress for your surviving spouse, family and friends.
Can I prepare my own will or use a do-it-yourself "will kit?"
Preparing your own will is not advisable. A will must conform to strict legal requirements in order to be valid. Anyone who is not legally qualified risks making a mistake – creating uncertainty or losing opportunities for good estate planning.
A will is an important legal document. It is advisable to have your will professionally drafted to ensure your wishes are properly recorded and carried out.
The team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers have years of experience with contesting wills and inheritance disputes. We know how to execute wills so they are contest- and challenge-resistant. Contact us today for a free consultation.